Synopses & Reviews
It was past two a.m. and Alice Marlowe was in bed when the phone rang. From the other end came the voice of a child clearly frightened, reluctant to reveal too much, and like Alice, all alone. Before she knows quite what she's doing, Alice is at the little girls apartment. She has no idea where Larissa Benton's mother has gone or when shes coming back. She tries to do the right thing, but when the police arrive and carry a crying Larissa away, Alice finds it difficult to let her go.
Single and fortysomething, she had no plans to bring a child into her life. She lives with a cat named Sampson and has imaginary conversations with her dead twin brother. As an interpreter for the deaf, she's used to standing between people, facilitating their conversations. But perhaps it is this unusual skill that can help Larissa, who, as she travels through Cleveland's child-welfare system, refuses to speak. And perhaps fate means to bring them together a woman with no one to love, and a beautiful, scared six-year-old girl in this compelling novel about the voices that call out to us, and the ways our lives can be transformed when we learn to listen.
"Willis (A Good Distance) gracefully explores the world of foster care through the eyes of 48-year-old Alice Marlowe, an interpreter for the deaf living a lonely life in Cleveland. When Alice receives a late-night phone call from a six-year-old girl whose mother has disappeared, the last thing she expects to do is apply to become her foster parent, but one look at beautiful, dark-skinned Larissa Benton changes everything. Alice's maternal impulse surprises her 'How did this child and I become us?' she wonders as she attends foster parenting classes and wonders if she can cope. Willis allows for ambiguity in her moving story: when Michelle, Larissa's white, wayward mother, returns, she's neither a villain nor a victim; Alice, who converses with her dead twin brother, is not a saint. When Michelle moves into Alice's home to be closer to her daughter, the narrative reaches its height of tension; Willis shows both the safety and generosity of Alice's world and the unpredictable but loving home that Michelle would provide. A careful, tender story of the complex bonds of motherhood, this novel doesn't shy away from its problems, but still comes to rest on the side of its wonders. Agent, Christy Fletcher. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Willis has written a wonderfully moving book about a woman and a child who bond despite terrific odds. The characters are vivid and real, and readers will become engrossed in their lives." Library Journal
"Like Anne Tyler, whose work Willis's resembles more with each book, she manages to squeeze a certain dignity out of Alice by never judging her." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"More than anything, Willis's glowing novel is about transformation of a lost-and-found collection of damaged humans, linked by a fragile chain to their pain and to each other." The Minneapolis Star Tribune
"A writer of great skill." The Washington Post Book World
"I've loved all her books and this one most of all." Karen Joy Fowler
Alice Marlowe accepts her life the way it is. She's single, in her late forties. She lives with a cat named Sampson, and has imaginary conversations with her dead twin brother. As a sign-language interpreter for the deaf, she is used to standing between people, facilitating their conversations with each other. But then a late-night phone call brings a beautiful, scared six-year-old girl into her life. And seeing herself through a child's eyes for the first time, she discovers that love is a universal language.
About the Author
Sarah Willis, a Pushcart Prize nominee and winner of the Cleveland Arts Prize for Literature, is also the author of A Good Distance, The Rehearsal and the New York Times Notable Book Some Things That Stay, which won the Book-of-the-Month Club's Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction.